Volatile profilingdistinguishes Streptococcus pyogenes from other respiratory streptococcal species

Amalia Z. Berna, Joseph A. Merriman, Leah Mellett, Danealle K. Parchment, Michael G. Caparon, Audrey R.Odom John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sore throat is one of the most common complaints encountered in the ambulatory clinical setting. Rapid, culture-independent diagnostic techniques that do not rely on pharyngeal swabs would be highly valuable as a point-of-care strategy to guide outpatient antibiotic treatment. Despite the promise of this approach, effortsto detect volatiles during oropharyngeal infection have yet been limited. In our research study, we sought to evaluate for specificbacterial volatile organic compounds (VOC) biomarkers in isolated cultures in vitro, in order to establish proof-of-concept prior to initial clinical studies of breath biomarkers. A particular challenge for the diagnosis of pharyngitis due to Streptococcus pyogenes is the likelihood that many metabolites may be shared by S. pyogenes and other related oropharyngeal colonizing bacterial species. Therefore, we evaluated whether sufficientmetabolic differencesare present, which distinguish the volatile metabolome of Group A streptococci from other streptococcal species that also colonize the respiratory mucosa, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus intermedius. In this work, we identified27 discriminatory VOCs (q-values < 0.05), composed of aldehydes, alcohols, nitrogen-containing compounds, hydrocarbons, ketones, aromatic compounds, esters, ethers, and carboxylic acid. From this group of volatiles, we identify candidate biomarkers that distinguish S. pyogenes from other species and establish highly produced VOCs that indicate the presence of S. pyogenes in vitro, supporting future breath-based diagnostic testing for streptococcal pharyngitis.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023


  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • group A streptococci
  • pharyngitis
  • volatile organic compounds


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